Written, edited, directed, designed, animated and produced by Nina Paley, 'Sita Sings the Blues' will remain an absolute delight. It is the greatest, most exalted story ever told, the Ramayana. But no, it doesn't stop at being a mere retelling of the ancient epic.
The plot works in more or less four sub-plots, one dealing with scenes from an 18th century depiction of the Ramayana, one being the musical ('20s Blues) version of episodes from the Ramayana, one being a discoursive discussion of the salient points in the epic and lastly, the contemporary parallel. Even so, the film doesn't attempt to be a 'Modern Ramayana', thankfully.
The juxtaposition of all these four tracks together culminates into one of the most sharply edited and beautifully animated film in recent times. What an absolutely brilliant film, and what splendid animation!
The film raises pertinent questions about the legacy of Sita, Sita in Ayodhya B.C and the Sita that lives through the ages into contemporary life. The Sita whose entire lexicon corresponds with references to immense sacrifices that a woman "has to make". Nina Paley's groundbreaking film raises questions to the very identity of Sita. Why does Sita opt to sacrifice herself, to show she was a symbol of utmost chaste purity by being thrown into the fire by Ram? Why does Sita feel the need to glorify and worship the man who banished her to the forests simply because he wanted the support of all his allays? Is it merely coincidental that Sita finds maximum emancipation and freedom only after she makes the ultimate sacrifice, that of life, to prove yet again that she remained untarnished, untouched by worldly pleasure?
The contemporary parallel story is an example of how Sita and her estate transcended beyond cultures, beyond boundaries and through times. Nina and Dave, the American couple form part of this sub-plot. Dave leaves for India, and gradually distances himself from his distraught wife. She, like Sita, hangs on to the hope he will take her back. She sacrifices her dignity and her pride to get back with Dave, Dave who doesn't care. Unlike Sita though, Nina doesn't have to die to be happy, to be free.
Sita lives on through us. Who she really was, whether she did exist or not, we shall never know. But through Valmiki's Ramayana, Sita's story is one that has been told and re-told. 'Sita Sings the Blues' just attempts to analyse, to question and to glean that Sita does exist in the woman of today. The real question is, however, whether Sita was right in everything she did? Did she not come with her own issues? Is her constant praise of Rama and the willingness to prove herself to be moral result from unconditional love or is it merely an illusion of love?
It is important to remember why Sita is still worshipped and idolised. Is it an attempt to create male hegemony through constant repitition of Sita's unquestioning, dolice self as being the 'Good Woman'? Or is Sita widely misunderstood? Maybe she did choose death over Rama (evident from her appeal to Mother Earth to take her right in if she has never committed perjury) to ascertain herself, her rights and her sadness.
'Sita Sings the Blues' makes you look inside of you, think, and scrutinise the context in which 'Sita' lived and died and still somehow manages to live. A must-watch satire on mythology, on relatinships and, on Sita.